Intelligence Community Raises Its Standards For Information Collection

May 22, 2009 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) issued revised guidelines this week for handling personal information gathered by law enforcement on members of the public. The changes were made to the “Functional Standard for Suspicious Activity Reporting,” which sets forth procedures on the collection and retention of data by federal, state and local law enforcement for the ODNI’s Information Sharing Environment (ISE)

The ISE was created through legislation passed in response to the 9/11 Commission Recommendations, to improve terrorism-related information sharing between federal, state and local agencies. The ISE program manager, Ambassador Thomas E. McNamara, and his office worked with the American Civil Liberties Union and other privacy and civil liberties groups, as well as state and local law enforcement, to address concerns regarding the original functional standard issued in January 2008.

The following can be attributed to Michael German, ACLU National Security Policy Counsel and former FBI Agent:

“The revised guidelines for suspicious activity reporting establish that a reasonable connection to terrorism or other criminal activity is required before law enforcement may collect Americans’ personal information and share it within the ISE. These changes to the standard, which include reiterating that race cannot be used as a factor to create suspicion, give law enforcement the authority it needs without sacrificing the rights of those it seeks to protect.

“These are welcome improvements, but strong federal guidelines are only the first step. We hope other agencies will adopt these reasonable and constitutional standards to govern their own information collection. We expect our elected representatives at the federal, state and local level to carefully watch over these intelligence activities to ensure that the privacy and civil liberties of their constituents are protected. We are pleased that the ISE program manager’s office constructively engaged with the privacy and civil liberties community to improve and strengthen these standards and we look forward to continued collaboration on these important issues.”

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